"The artist through his works reveals himself, embodies his thoughts and materializes the philosophy with which he faces the everyday life of his existence."
To Roberto Borra, Art is his whole life. After years of collaboration with many galleries in Turin and Milan, Italy and after working in an online art magazine, nationally distributed, as the responsible director, he currently plays the role of critic and curator of artistic events for the gallery modern and contemporary art "Argallery37" and for "Drovetti Artspace." Also following as an art director at the organization of institutional events in important historical buildings of Piedmont and Italy -The Collective Cultural Association 37 of which he is a founding member with Alberto Bongini, Carlo Lorietti, and Alessandro Merlo, has as its main purpose to do scouting to discover new talents and promote them in important contexts in order to progressively historicize their work. They all also try to build bridges between different cultures and generations by bringing contemporary art into contexts where the dialogue between past and present, between tradition and innovation, and the basic concept of art is visible. However, Roberto Borra remains an artist, in love with making art, drawing from the special relationship he has with nature and the environment, the main source of inspiration.
In the 1980s he was selected internationally at the Photosalon of the Turin Photography Biennale. Among the most important exhibitions is the solo exhibition in the prestigious Villa de "La Versiliana" in Marina di Pietrasanta (Tuscany), where Gabriele D'Annunzio stayed. To the medieval Museum Commenda di Prè of Genoa, to the project "Via Crucis" in the Neogothic Church of San Vittore in the Carlo Albertino Complex of Pollenzo (UNESCO Headquarters) and the Abbey of Novalesa.Personal exhibition of the medieval Casa degli Affreschi of Novalesa in the province of Turin where Napoleon Bonaparte stayed, and exhibited at the Grand foyer of the Teatro Puccini and at Palazzo Leti Sansi in Spoleto, at the Casa Museo Sartori in Mantova, at the Palazzo della Racchetta in Ferrara, at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Turin, at the Castello Gallone of Nociglia in Puglia and in galleries of London (England) Edinburgh (Scotland), Bielsko Biala (Poland), Valencia (Spain). His photographic works have appeared in publications of the Alinari of Florence, of the Editorial Giorgio Mondatori, of the Lem Art Group, etc. In 1996, he edited for the Neos Editions, his first photo book "Valle di Susa, travel notes".
Through his unique works of art, Roberto Borra provides us with the ability of seeing a story within a story. Almost as if the past is reflected in the future and the future is reflected in a past leaving no room for a present. Because the present is that instant, that moment where you stand to appreciate his art and realize the magic embedded in such creations. As if no time managed to elapse, his artistic creations take you through moments that somehow you recognize. Best of all, you are given the freedom to simply get lost in that instant where nature unites with human emotions.
Q. What role does the Artist / Painter have in society?
A. For me, art is making an extraordinary journey into the territories of the unconscious to offer a concrete representation space to the immateriality of personal experience. My works are born from digital and/or pictorial reworkings of my photographs taken in the long journey of a professional photographer. In reality, as the art critic and historian Cinzia Tesio well understands, in the Turin artist, thinking images is part of her painting: the point of arrival can perhaps become that of imagining thought. “I find a synergy between the key concept of metaphysics and the work of Roberto Borra and I still see a perfect harmony with the words of Giorgio De Chirico who states in one of his writings: for some time now I have realized that I think through images or representations.” This is exactly my approach to art. Think of images. A reason for me to be proud is represented by the fact that, like the art historian Cinzia Tesio, other important critics tend to identify my art as "painting" and not as "photography". It is the sign that it is the concept that the artist pursues to determine the meaning of a work, not the medium it uses. In summary, you can paint with a camera or a digital table and you can take pictures using acrylic colors, oils and brushes as hyper-realistic painting teaches us well. An inversion of meaning that I find fascinating if realized with a spirit of experimentation and not just reproduction.
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
A. I was about six years old and my father Aldo, with a hammer and chisel, taught me the rudimentary techniques of bas-relief on wood. I don't remember the subject but I remember the emotion I felt. I am sure that this was my first attempt to create a work of art.
Q. Why did you decide to become what you are today?
A. The art has decided for me, it has captured me, I fell into its wonderful "trap".
Q. How did you start in the art world? What is the shape of your artistic career since then?
A. After a long career in the field of editorial photography and journalism, about ten years ago, after long wandering, I returned to live in Condove, back to my childhood place in the mountains of the Susa Valley not far from Turin. It was a turning point that made me want to make a total change in my existence and my work. Professional photography had taken me around the world but now it was not enough for me to "photograph reality" for publishers and clients, even if they were prestigious. I had to "materialize" my inner visions, give voice to the profound meaning of my existence. Returning to the places of my childhood created in me a need I would say, almost spiritual, so I decided to dedicate myself totally to art. It was a rapid and extraordinary inner evolution. The time was ripe to create more instinctive and archetypal expressive forms that told of my intense symbiotic relationship with nature, a source that inspires almost all my artistic production. A return to childhood, therefore, Picasso's lesson at the bottom, cultured and applied almost unconsciously.
Q. What was the oeuvre that marked you the most?
A. "The man of the lake" is the work I love most of all my production. It is also what taught me that when art coincides with essential events of human existence, in this case, the loss of my father, it contains a universally recognizable vital energy regardless of cultural or social belonging. It is my most "copied" work by artists in various parts of the world and I am honored by spreading the figure of my father through my art and the art of those who reproduce it and still give him moments of life, and this moves me and makes me happy, it makes me understand the value of art in determining socially and psychologically the precarious balance of the whole of humanity.
Q. This is a question regarding your career as a gallerist, art critic and curator: When and how was Artgallery37 born? What were the reasons that led you to create it?
A. The Artgallery37 was born in September 2016 with the first exhibition entitled "Fragments of modern and contemporary art", shows where the founding members of the Collective Association 37 to which I belong, have exhibited their works with those of some sacred monsters modern art: Giorgio De Chirico, Emilio Vedova, Marc Chagall, among others. An exhibition with great success that has opened the door to many important national and international collaborations. The Artgallery37 of Turin is much more than just a gallery. It is a physical place where new projects are born, an experimental center of aggregation between artists, art professionals, collectors and people who belong to other realities but who want to get to know the world of art from within without any social or cultural barrier. Promoting art and emerging level artists is our mission and bringing them to exhibit with the great artists who made the history of modern art is the right way to help them in the long and difficult process of historicizing and spreading their work. Recently, we opened in Turin the "Drovetti Artspace", a new exhibition space located in another strategic area of the city near Piazza Statuto, one of the most famous squares in Turin, Italy.
Q. How do you see the artistic landscape in Turin, Italy today?
A. Turin is a city where art is at home throughout the year. Just walk along the downtown streets to realize how widespread the sense of beauty is in this wonderful city. Every year in late October, early November for four days Turin becomes one of the European capitals of contemporary art with an extraordinary series of internationally-known events spread throughout the city and culminating with "Artissima". In Turin, there is also the Royal Albertine Academy, former Academy of Painters, Sculptors and Architects, which bears the signature of a woman, Maria Giovanna di Savoia Nemours. Today the Academy of Turin, the only one in Italy to boast both the didactic activity (with over 1400 students of 40 nationalities) and a prestigious art gallery, another woman, Paola Gribaudo, after 341 years of history, has again assumed the guide. Daughter of master Ezio Gribaudo, one of the greatest interpreters of the Italian and international twentieth century, Paola Gribaudo dedicated her life to art and publishing, creating prestigious catalogs and art books that appeared on the cover of The Book Review of the New York Times and working with Botero, Rauschenberg, Garcia Marquez and Brodsky. Paola Gribaudo also obtained in 2011 from the French Minister of Culture Francis Mitterand the honorific of Chevalier de l 'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Working in a city that is so culturally active and dealing personally with people of such great importance, allows our Collective Association 37, Artgallery 37 and Drovetti Artspace to have invaluable suggestions for assuming an increasingly important and strategic role in the national context, expanding its own influence also internationally. Having international artists, winners of prestigious awards that they aspire to exhibit with our organization and in our galleries is an extraordinary goal for us considering only three years of activity and the collective association type37. And we are happy to be able to bring our artists and those who will believe in us in increasingly stimulating contexts and towards goals that will help us grow together.
Q. Which audience are your galleries addressed to?
A. The public that attends our exhibitions is very diversified both from a generational point of view and from a social and cultural point of view, this is because we offer different forms of art such as painting, sculpture, photography, performance, the digital art, and engraving. In addition, we hold some exhibitions together with young critics and art historians who attract a young audience. The quality of our artists' work is the element that unites them and that allows our projects to achieve great success and to create a virtuous circle of collaborations. We have in fact, for a long time decided to internationalize our artistic proposal, including artists from all over the world to create an increasingly intense and productive cultural exchange.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. I love all the initiatives that start from the bottom because if there is a good idea and a deep love for what you do, they have an incomparable vitality. The principle is that of the tree. Starting from the bottom and not knowing where to go. But still, try to raise the horizons of your own conscience. This is my philosophy of life. The same that characterizes our Collective Association37 and our modern and contemporary art gallery, the Artgallery37 of Turin. It is a place where the artist is always welcomed as a bearer of possible novelties, of potential projects to be implemented through sharing. Only the honesty and strength of one's work is indispensable. The very quality of people is fundamental. If there is harmony, enthusiasm, love for what is being achieved and a common determination, everything is possible.
Q. Who are your greatest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or someone else in particular? Are there particular pictorial traditions or "old masters" that have influenced your work?
A. Pablo Picasso, Sebastiao Salgado, Renè Magritte, Luigi Spazzapan, Alberto Giacometti, Ansel Adams, Giorgio De Chirico, Henri Cartier Bresson and Ezio Gribaudo whom I have the honor of knowing.
Influence of historical periods on my education and on my art:
Neolithic art, late medieval art, cubism, and futurism are some of the main sources of my art.
Q. What does success mean to you?
A. Success for me is gaining the freedom to be not only a member of the art community but also in life, aware and responsible to preserve all the beauty of humanity. Today as yesterday, success is identified with fame and money. For me, it is a success to see the emotion in the eyes of the observer of my work. The true measure of an artist's success lies in those eyes moist with emotion, regardless of the value attributed to him by an "art market" often distorted by financial and market dynamics.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. Art is generally produced in solitude but it is the fruit of interaction with the surrounding world. It is therefore physiological to seclude to elaborate this relationship and move on to the creative phase even if a too prolonged detachment can be negative for one's own openness, sometimes it is necessary to get lost inside oneself, only to find oneself in the world more aware of who we really are.
Q. What is your philosophy on art?
A. Art is fundamentally stimulating and satisfying deep down our emotional and spiritual part. Despite the parallel work of gallery owner and critic, I advise every artist to do what inspires him the most, what he feels most. Over time, this will give unexpected fruits, of course, if there are talent and great patience and determination.
Q. In addition to making art, what do you like to do?
A. I love reading and above all writing. I love walking in nature and watching free animals. I love skiing and running silently in the woods.
Q. If you had not chosen to be an artist, what would you have dedicated yourself to?
A. I would have devoted myself to the study and observation of animals, an ethologist or a park ranger, but I think that even archeology would have been a fascinating world in which to work.
Q. What is the best advice you have been given, and by who?
A. In a meeting I had in Turin on the occasion of the International Biennial of Photography in the mid-80s, the great gallery owner Lanfranco Colombo, one of the most important historical figures in Italian photography and beyond, explained to me that the idea of creating the mythical Gallery “The Diaphragm" he founded in Milan in 1967, was born from a meeting on the French Riviera, with photographer Henri Cartier Bresson who was disappointed that there was no private gallery dedicated exclusively to photography in the world. He encouraged him to invest his money in a dream that turned out to be extraordinary and fundamental to the history of photography itself, and Lanfranco Colombo taught me that great projects are born from the ability to translate one's dreams into concrete and innovative projects by dedicating all our energies to them.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. I advise all young artists to look for serious gallery owners and critics who offer them concrete opportunities to make their work known to a wide and qualified audience and who accompany them in their artistic journey, stimulating growth through the constant search for expressive freedom. I also recommend the effective use of social media, especially Instagram to make their work known in the world without feeling too bound by unscrupulous art dealers.